Since at the moment I am spending time either watching telly or reading books. So a book review is the way it is going to go!
Bryony Gordon is a Telegraph Columnist, mental health advocate and author of the famous Mad Girl (which I have written a blog post about) and her latest book which is about running with a mental health condition. Today I am focusing on her first book The Wrong Kickers which she recalls her twenties in absolute hilarity. Bryony Gordon first rose to popularity because she wrote the popular Girl about Town column which ran from …. To …. In all honestly I was too young to read or even know about the column. I knew her from the Mad Girl book but you don’t need to know that history to not enjoy the book.
The Wrong Knickers opens with Bryony round at a a guy’s house, it is the morning after the night before, and he throws her over a pair of knickers – which turns out to not even be hers. This kicks off her adventure of her parents divorcing, the numerous weddings she has gone too, drug taking, experience about her low self-esteem, moving out into dodgy flats, watching her career grow, having an affair with a married man and eventually finding peace.
I loved the book, Bryony tells her stories so vividly and all of the chapters interlink. There are quite a few life events in the twenties that most of us can relate to at least one of them in one way or another. I find that people forget or don’t realise what a rollercoaster being in your twenties can be. Someone said to me that your twenties is where you go through more change then any other decade in terms of work and life, as beyond your thirties you are putting down roots and when you are a child and in your teens you are largely based at home. I kind of agree with that and Bryony puts that across well. The only negative I found is that I do feel that Bryony should have had some kind of self-restraint, it does go from one car crash to another which yes it is part of the appeal of the book but you do think that either at times she just didn’t know where to stop or she knew what she was doing was wrong but didn’t stop anyway- which is just awful.
If you want a good laugh or you are feeling pretty shit about your own and you want to feel better then yes this book is worth a read.
I am seriously derived of reading material at the moment so I picked this up at the charity shop in Newark. Eloise is a book written by Judy Finnigan (from Richard and Judy fame) and it is her first book. The story, set in Cornwall, is about Cathy whose best friend Eloise has passed away from cancer. Cathy starts seeing Eloise in her dreams and gets frustrated as Eloise keeps warning her that her twin daughters will come to harm and to keep them away from her husband Tom.
Cathy’s husband Chris, who is a psychiatrist, does not believe her at all and believes that she is heading towards a break down. Mental illness is a strong theme in this book, there is this constantly to and throwing because Cathy has had a previous breakdown she is constantly doubted by her husband. Without giving too much away we learn a lot about Eloise’s family and it becomes a race against time to save the twins from danger and for Cathy to leave for London permanently.
The book for me was a real slow burner, half the book was about Cathy grappling with her dreams about Eloise. To be honest I was getting sick of it, as well as the really long rambling descriptions of Cornwall. Maybe because I haven’t been to Cornwall so couldn’t relate at all. But it just went on and on and on. The book just didn’t really get going until the last quarter really.
I couldn’t shake the feeling with the book that Cathy was Judy so the main character I just keep imaging is Judy, which was frustrating. You could tell Judy loves Cornwall and although the rambling descriptions annoyed me you could see it was full of meaning. In the authors notes Judy mentions that Caron Keating (daughter of Gloria Hunningford) who died of cancer in 2004 did inspire Eloise’s character. I have actually read both Gloria Hunningford’s books about Caron’s death and I knew that they were both close (Judy was mentioned in the books) and I did wonder if Eloise was based on her. The book is alright but I have read better and it wouldn’t be a book that I would recommend.
Having been listening to Emma Gannon’s Ctrl, Alt Delete podcast I just so happened to listen to the episode with Dawn O’Porter and it was such a good programme and her latest book sounded so right up my street so I thought, why not! So if you are looking for a new book, that will give you a laugh with strong women that make mistakes and learn a lot about themselves then read ahead!
The Cows is about three women, Tara who is 42 and works as a documentary maker. She is constantly belittled at work by her misogynistic male colleges. Tara also has a 6 year old child from a one-night stand but the father does not know about the child. There is Stella, who is still mourning the death of her twin sister and mother from cancer, also she has the BRCA gene (which puts her at high risk of developing cancer) and is yearning for children although at the same time her relationship is falling apart. Finally there is Cam Stacey, owner of the blog howitis.com. Through the blog she has turned into a bit of a feminist icon as she doesn’t want children, much to the dismay of her mother.
The story really gets going when Tara gets caught masturbating (yes really, I wasn’t expecting that either) on the tube as she is travelling home after a date with a guy called Jason and a nearby passenger films it on his phone. The footage gets put on YouTube and goes viral. Tara becomes the butt of all jokes overnight, she can’t eat, she doesn’t want to leave the house, she got a warning from the police and she has lost her job. Tara finds solace in Cam Stacey who has been the only person to support her by writing a blog post sticking up for her after the tube incident. They soon strike up a friendship and constantly email each other. Stella on the other hand is Jason’s PA, it just so happens Jason is on an internet ban as he tries to finish his book. Therefore Stella goes to great lengths to protect Jason from finding out about Tara. Yes, it does feel very six degrees of separation.
I am not going to lie this book is a bit bat-shit crazy. There are a lot of themes touched here – feminism, misogyny, whether you should tell the father of your child that he has a child. The fact that women enjoying sex is deemed to be wrong (there is nothing wrong with it, just not on public transport regardless if you are male or female!). The characters are all flawed in some way and that women are just as bad as men. For example Tara is judgement about all the Mum’s at the school gates, thinking that they all stay at home and that they all judge her when she comes to the gates, on her own, from work. Which we find out later it couldn’t be further from the truth. Cam doesn’t see that her fuck buddy has feelings for her and when she does she tries to dismiss them. Stella is probably the most flawed of all- she literally does everything wrong. She lies and trolls all for her selfish gain. What I did like from the book that as the women are older, so you see clearly the impact of their actions unlike books about women in their twenties who are just starting out.
Have you read The Cows? What do you think?
So I completed the Summer Wolf Run in Stanford Hall, Leicester this weekend which was tricky but good! The Wolf Run (Wolf stands for Woods, Obstacles, Lakes and Fields) is a running event which is 10k filled with wading through mud, crawling through trees, swimming through water, and climbing over obstacles and running! There is the opportunity to bring your family members to watch and there are loads of food stalls to get your burger and pint after the race and amusements to keep the kids entertained! To enter in the Wolf Run, you sign up online and collect your race number on the day once you have handed in your disclaimer form. There is a key drop for your car keys and a bag drop for those that travelled by public transport. If you complete each Wolf Run (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter) then you get the Alpha Wolf Medal and shirt. Once you have completed the Wolf Run, you receive a goody bag consisting of a Wolf Run shirt, water bottle and a Cliff bar snack before you run off to the shower facilities to get the worse of the mud off!
I cannot remember all of them but here is a list of what to expect if you run one:
- Crawling through overgrowth
- Climbing obstacles ranging from climbing walls to the climbing nets.
- Mud swamps (lots of them)
- Swimming in open water and a lake
- Wading through ditches
- Climbing over tyres
- Crawling through a tube
The training and my Wolf Run experience
I hadn’t trained much beforehand because my knee was so sore, so running was swapped for swimming. I could tell there was something up with my knee because I could feel it clicking loads in the pool! As I am not a strong swimmer, the swimming did not replace the running like for like in terms of fitness. And my god I could tell that I had lost some of that fitness.
Regarding my experience of the Wolf Run, I have literally no upper arm strength and that is where I struggled as there was a lot of wading through mud swamps and oh my god that mud was horrendous. Everyone was getting stuck, it felt like quicksand, I literally had guys pulling me up onto the log. At one point I nearly fainted I think it was just with all of the adrenaline and maybe the shock of being stuck in the mud for so long threw me a bit. After walking 2k and missing a couple of obstacles for my own safety and so I could gain some strength back I was off again. I did miss the two swimming ones just because I am a weak swimmer and I didn’t want to put myself or anyone else that would have to rescue me in danger. The race was well thought out with obstacles spaced out evenly giving you the chance to recover from a few of the tougher obstacles. The obstacles were various levels of challenging with the chance to run round if you didn’t feel up to it.
So what did I learn from completing the Wolf Run?
- For gawddd sake don’t take any valuables. It was a last minute thing for me to take of my engagement ring and I am glad I did as that would have been long gone in the mud.
- Running and obstacle running are two different things. Obstacle running requires a lot of upper arm strength, something I didn’t really think about until I was actually running the course. I would recommend putting in some upper strength training before the run.
- I don’t think it is a beginners or a fun run like Pretty Muddy (but it isn’t timed so you can take your time). Personally I would get some fitness in as it will help you in the long run.
- Wear old clothes, yes the mud did wash off after putting on the washing machine TWICE but since you will be crawling through trees.
Have you done a Wolf Run?
My latest book review is on Ladybird by Design by Lawrence Zeegen. The author of the book, Lawrence Zeegen is Dean of the School Design and Professor of Illustration at Ravensbourne University so he is more than qualified to fully understand why the design of Ladybird has contributed to its success. I love vintage Ladybird books and have a small collection of the vintage books myself. When my partner gave me this book as a gift, I was excited to get reading. Ladybird by Design is about the history of Ladybird through the design of the books whilst exploring the different series, artists and authors.
The book is laid out in four main chapters the first gives a history of the Ladybird company starting out as printers Wills and Hepworth in Loughborough who were printing children’s copies as a side job from printing brochures as well as paper shortages brought on by the outbreak of the second world war meant that the size of the books were reduced. With space extremely tight the front and the back cover were utilised with diagrams, images and information about other books available in the series. The second chapter it goes into detail about the artists such as Robert Lumley, Eric Winter and Charles Tunnicliffe as well as the history about the individual series such as the famous Key Words series.
The third chapter steps away from the artwork and explores the other fundamentals of the Ladybird books including typography, foreign editions, logos, language and typeface all important in the creation of the Ladybird book.
The final chapter focuses on Ladybird moving forward into the modern world, it goes into detail about Ladybird being sold to Pearson, the TV tie-ins which have provided to be a positive for Ladybird with Peppa Pig bringing in millions and moving into different formats such as tapes and apps and baby books.
The book gives such a comprehensive view in the history of Ladybird but also the individual artists involved in the iconic covers. It also provides a critical view as well one example is how the books were not diverse and provided a very cliched view of life in modern life in the UK. Whether you are a massive fan of the books or just like the illustrations it really is worth a read.